Tag Archives: arch

Cinnamon 2

cinnamon2

Soon LinuxMint will release version 16 “Petra” including Cinnamon 2.0, which, unlike Cinnamon 1.x, doesn’t have any dependencies to Gnome. So the Mint- Team finally can stop caring whether a given Gnome version goes into the next Ubuntu release or not, or if there’s a different Gnome version in Debian.

For Arch and Manjaro users, the new Cinnamon has been available for a couple of weeks already, about time to try it out. Installation is simple, the “cinnamon” package from the Arch repos will install everything you need.

I created a new user profile for testing Cinnamon, so it would be easier to roll back to XFCE afterwards, but this shouldn’t be necessary. After the installation Cinnamon started without problems, the standard settings (Gnome icons and wallpaper) can be changed in the Settings Center, where you also can download new themes directly inside the widgets, same as in KDE (the screenshot shows the “dk-cinnamon” theme). Wallpapers, icons and GTK themes can be changed individually. When using the settings manager, you should definitely switch to “Advanced Mode”, simple mode hides a lot of useful settings like e.g. keyboard shortcuts.

Talking about keyboard shortcuts, Cinnamon shares the Gnome “Feature” of ignoring your .Xmodmap configuration, an absolute no go for owners of Lenovo laptops with their messed up keyboard layouts. Fortunately this can be fixed by a simple workaround, you only have to add a manual entry to the Session Startup:

sh -c "sleep 10;xmodmap ~/.Xmodmap"

All other configuration works as expected, moving panel widgets can be a bit tricky at times, but that’s something you usually do only once anyway. Compared to XFCE, Cinnamon offers more visual effects and configuration options (z.g. Alt+Tab or switching between virtual desktops), and a more modern start menu widget, that can even be opened by keyboard shortcut (on the other hand I prefer Whisker’s approach to favorites …). The Cinnamon lock screen looks much better than XFCE’s Xscreensaver, too, even if it doesn’t support classical screensaver animations, and Cinnamon power settings are a good replacement for  XFCE Power Manager. The “Nemo” file manager is not really my cup of tea (same as  Nautilus or Thunar), of course I know how to use them if I have to, but none of them will replace Double Commander as my default file manager any time soon. Panel applets can be downloaded directly, too. I didn’t try  Desklets but if you like a big analog clock and weather data on your desktop here’s your chance to achieve this without installing KDE.

Not that there was anything wrong with my XFCE setup, but overall Cinnamon 2 is really damn compelling. It has more eye candy and runs as fast and stable as XFCE  – so I think I’ll be staying in that new Cinnamon home directory for a little longer ;)

Pipelight – run Windows browser plugins on Linux

There is general agreement that browser plugins like Flash or Silverlight are a thing of the past. Ever since Apple refused to support Flash on the iPhone back in 2007, it is clear that the future is pure HTML5, and browser vendors are starting even now to disable plugins by default.

Reality, however, is a bit different. All legal (commercial) music and video streaming services depend on plugins, and so do most of the available web games. This is a constant annoyance, especially on Linux, where Flash (except in Google Chrome) is frozen on the sluggish 11.2 version and most other plugins like Silverlight, Quicktime or Shockwave are not supported at all.

This gap is closed by Pipelight, a project that aims to support Windows browser plugins by running them through a special, modified WINE version. In version 0.1 they supported Silverlight only (solving my long time Lovefilm on Linux problem), the new version 0.2 supports flash, too, and at least theoretically it should be possible to support any other Windows browser plugin in the future.

Installation is simple enough, at least on Manjaro or any other Arch- based system. You just type ‘yaourt pipelight’ in a terminal and after some minutes of building (the package depends on wine-browser-installer which takes a while to compile) you are done. When you next start up Firefox, a WINE initialization popup will appear and after that Silverlight should be working out of the box (if you still get those “your browser is not supported” errors, you might have to look into modifying the user agent, which can be done with an addon like UAControl).

If you want to enable flash, too, you have to run some more commands:

sudo pacman -R flashplugin
sudo pipelight-plugin --create-mozilla-plugins
sudo pipelight-plugin --enable flash
sudo pipelight-plugin --enable silverlight

The removal of ‘flashplugin’ is necessary because otherwise Firefox will for some reason still use the Linux plugin as long as it is available. Disabling it is not a option, because enabling / disabling always affects BOTH  plugins. After running “WINE Flash Install” on the next browser start the installation is complete.

Running on WINE doesn’t have any impact on performance, though, when running Flash Benchmark 08 on my Lenovo S400, Pipelight Flash 11.9 reaches 12 FPS on “Ultra” settings, exactly the same result as Chrome Pepper Flash. In comparison, the official Flash 11.2 already fails on “High” level with 21 FPS, which is A LOT slower and really makes a difference when playing high end Flash games or watching HD videos.

So if you are not happy with your Flash performance in browsers that are not Chrome (including Chromium, by the way), or need Silverlight on Linux, give Pipelight a try.

Manjaro – Arch for the rest of us

Manjaro aims at creating “a user-friendly Linux distribution based on the independently developed Arch operating system”. This approach has made Manjaro the first Arch- based distro to not only enter the Top 10, but actually outrank Arch on Distrowatch.

So, how does a user-friendly Archlinux feel, and how does it compare to other end user centric distributions like Linux Mint ?

The installation of Manjaro 0.8.7 XFCE was easy and intuitive, and all the hardware of my Lenovo S400 was correctly recognized (at least after I switched from Kernel 3.04 to 3.10, which has become the default in version 0.8.7.1). In a little over 1GB the ISO contains all necessary software, Firefox, Thunderbird, the Gimp, LibreOffice, VLC and lots of others. The XFCE Desktop is elegant and functional, and uses Whisker menu instead of the slightly dated XFCE default menu. Just like Ubuntu or Mint, Manjaro has a graphical Updater and package manager but I still prefer the “classic” command line tools. For Arch and Manjaro that means  pacman and yaourt (which is included by default for AUR access).

If you don’t like XFCE, there is also an Openbox version, and “Community Editions” for all common  desktop environments and even Enlightenment. Unlike Archbang or Bridge, the Manjaro team is maintaining separate repositories, but updates are frequent and changes are kept to a minimum, so that AUR compatibility is ensured.

Due to the rolling release nature of Arch, Updates are much more frequent than in Ubuntu- based distributions, and you never have to do a big “distribution upgrade” that breaks everything or even reinstall every few months (like in Mint). There can be a small delay before a new Arch package is moved on to the Manjaro repos, but that also means that the really bad bugs have usually been fixed.

Overall, Manjaro is a keeper. The perfect compromise between a user friendly every day distribution, and “bleeding edge” Arch appeal. Give it a try, you might like it :)

Archbang 2012.05 + XFCE 4.10

Archbang

Archbang Linux is an old dream of mankind come true: working Archlinux out of the box. Because that’s what you get after installing Archbang to your harddrive: plain vanilla Arch -  the same package system, the same repositories, and the same bleeding edge rolling release. This also means, Archbang might not be for everyone, it’s actually more like a shortcut if you COULD install Arch (i.e. have done it before) but want to save an afternoon.

The 32 Bit ISO weighs less than 500MB and contains the essential OS with a simple Crunchbang- style Openbox desktop. All my hardware (eeePC 1215N) worked out of the box, except having to install Bumblebee Nvidia drivers. For your package managing needs Archbang includes packer, a pacman wrapper with included AUR access, giving you access to the latest stable version of about any piece of Linux software that is available on the internet (if that’s still not bleeding edge enough for you, there often is a Dev / Beta version in the AUR, too).

The (text based) installation process is rather smooth, but it might make sense to partition your HD before (e.g. with PartedMagic), or at least check the partition table with fdisk -l, so you don’t accidentally overwrite your data or Windows partition … Before upgrading (packer -Syyu) read the latest news on archlinux.org, right now there are 2 entries (filesystem upgrade, pacman verify) to considered before you can successfully upgrade Archbang 2012.05 to the latest packages.

XFCE

Archbang also makes a great base to install another desktop environment, e.g. for XFCE you only have to run ‘pacman -S xfce4‘ and then replace the openbox startup line at the end of .xinitrc with ‘exec startxfce4‘. Arch repos of course already include XFCE 4.10, which is certainly the most mature desktop environment I have seen so far, and one of the snappiest. Sticking to the classic taskpanel / menu concept, XFCE it is easy to use, very customizable and easy on the eyes:

This is my XFCE desktop, using Elementary GTK theme, Minimal XFWM theme and Faenza Dark icons (the dock on top is wbar, the wallpaper is available here). This setup is very efficient in terms of screen estate, I havent’t found any other combination of OS / desktop environment, yet, that uses so little space for window decorations and scrollbars, while still being fully functional. Combined with the Classic Compact Firefox theme this gives you an almost fullscreen browsing experience, and makes Chrome look bloated in comparison (especially in combination with the dated and cheesy Windows Aero UI).

PS: most of this was written in June for my old blog, reposting for archiving purposes

10 more things to do after installing Archbang

So you installed Archbang, and now you are getting bored because everything is running so smoothly ? Already finished your “10 things to do after installing Archbang” ? Here’s some more stuff you can do around your favorite Linux Distro …

1. Install Tools

While Archbang has everything you need, there is always room for improvement on the tools side …

  • Htop is a task manager for the console – either assign it to a hotkey (in urxvt) or start it from a root terminal (Ctrl+F1) to control over every single process on your OS
  • Scite will give you advanced text editing and syntax highlighting, while being almost as light as leafpad
  • Double Commander is a cross platform clone of the famous Total Commander with additional improvements, which makes it the best (orthodox) file manager currently avaliable on any OS
  • Mc is a Norton Commander clone for the console – a real life saver in case you mess up your X while updating or tweaking the configuration

2. Install LibreOffice

In a perfect world this would be a no- brainer, but ‘sudo pacman -S libreoffice’, while getting the job done, will include 500+ MB of KDE goodness from the libreoffice-kde package. Arch Wiki offers to use ‘pacman -S libreoffice-common libreoffice-{base,calc,draw,impress,math,writer,gnome,sdk,sdk-doc}’, and if you do not use Extensions you can skip the sdk parts, too.

3. Install MS Fonts

Install ttf-ms-fonts and ttf-vista-fonts, this will not only make websites look more like on the Win7 office rig, but will also improve the looks of your imported Word docs a lot !

4. Put your laptop to sleep on lid close

Of course you could just install xfce4-power-manager for this, but that’s not exactly The Arch Way, right ? A more elegant solution is to use acpid and pm-utils … as a little exercise, figure out the details from the Wiki – good luck !!

5. Connect with netcfg

If your machine is usually connected to the same network, you might want to use netcfg in /etc/rc.conf. The connection is started early in the boot process, so you will be online even before the desktop is loaded. Always use the ‘@’ prefix for it in the DAEMONS array, otherwise the whole boot process will be delayed until connection attempts are finished. You can of course disable network-manager and network with the ‘!’ prefix, just don’t uninstall – downloading network-manager can be tricky when your network is broken …

6. Show network status in conky

Of course netcfg doesn’t have a tray icon, so you might want to add a couple of lines to you conkyrc, to show network status (example shows a wireless connection):

${wireless_essid wlan0} (${wireless_bitrate wlan0}) $alignr ${wireless_link_qual_perc wlan0}%
${wireless_link_bar wlan0}
Down: ${downspeed wlan0} $alignr Up: ${upspeed wlan}
${downspeedgraph wlan0 20,115 999999 cccccc} ${alignr}${upspeedgraph wlan0 20,115 999999 cccccc}

7. Create your own keyboard bindings

Like every decent operating system, you can customize keyboard shortcuts in Archbang’s openbox environment. The most comfy way to do this, is installing obkey. But even editing openbox rc.xml is not rocket science, and is well documented in the openbox Wiki

8. Install games

Most operating systems offer a small selection of games – here’s my suggestion for the “Archbang Games” collection:

  • Pysolfc offers a huge collection of solitaire card (and Mahjong) games
  • Ltris is a very nice Tetris clone
  • Stone-soup (aka Dungeon Crawl)  is a rogue-like with (simple) graphics and tutorial mode
  • Dopewars is a classic business simulation with a drug dealing theme
  • Micropolis is the original Sim City game (open sourced for the OLPC project)

Of course there are fancier Linux games around, but the ones mentioned above are effective time killers and go well with the Arch philosophy … a good starting point for Linux gaming in general is LGDB, or of course Google.

9. Run Windows programs using WINE

If someone asks you, “This Archbang is kinda nice, but will it run {insert random Windows program} ?” – wouldn’t you love to just tell them “Sure, pass me that CD” ? In fact, about two thirds of the software I’m asked about by family and friends runs just fine, if you add wine and winetricks to your Archbang install. Check the WINE AppDb, you will be surprised how much Windows software will work fine under Linux.

10. Join the community

Even if you are not a programmer, you can contribute … join the forums (Archbang, Arch), file Bugs or contribute to the Arch Wiki.

Archbang 2011.10 on Asus Eee 1215N

Although my Bodhi install is running fine, I have still not given up on my dream of running some kind of Archlinux as my primary OS, and preferably with a #! style Openbox desktop. After discouraging results with both, ‘vanilla’ Arch 2011.08.19 and CTK Arch 0.7 (both could not handle my wireless or run X in the native solution), I was not really optimistic about the new Archbang 2011.10. But what a pleasant surprise, with the “Autodetect X” boot option I did not only get wireless and full resolution X, but even Intel 3D on the live USB. Of course I instantly picked ‘install’ from the openbox menu, and was rewarded with a working Arch install just 15 minutes later.

Archbang features the #! ‘classic’ setup with Openbox and Tint2. The preinstalled software is reduced to the absolute essentials – Firefox Nightly, Flash, uTorrent, Thunar, gmplayer, urxvt, Zathura (PDF reader),  and so on (complete list on Softpedia). Archbang includes packer, a neat package manager with AUR access, giving you easy access to every piece of Linux software currently available, even closed source binaries like Citrix or some freeware games.

Bumblebee ION2 support can simply be installed from the AUR, after 5 minutes of heavy compiling (and some simple config steps) I was successfully running ‘optirun glxgears’ at several hundred FPS. Mission completed. All other hardware seems to work out of the box, as expected with Kernel3.

If you want to know more about Archbang check their FAQs … for me Archbang offers the perfect balance between The Arch Way and “pleasantly boring” #!. So if you are running #! or Bodhi and want to go to the next level, Archbang is definitely for you. The blog post “10 things to do after installing Archbang” provides a good starting point for customizing your install.

CTK Arch – A better Archbang

Being a big fan of #!, I was always interested in bringing a #! style desktop on my other favourite distro, Arch. The most obvious choice for this would be Archbang, but frequent packages changes (up to the point of including LXDE in one release) and missing stability (2011-01 didn’t even survive its first pacman -Syu), made me look further … so I finally found CTK Arch.

CTK Arch is, by far, the fastest live system I’ve ever seen. A truly minimal setup and optimmized alignment of the binaries on the disc make it boot in less than a minute, from CD !! GParted is inlcuded, so this will surely replace PartedMagic for me. If you create a bootable USB, you can also include a persistent data partition or extend the ISO with (squashfs based) add-ons, but I didn’t try that, yet. The default software selection includes everything you really need and a couple of extras, like GParted (already mentioned), GIMP, Tuxracer, Audacity, GTK and and even 2 full featured web browsers (Midori, Arora and Jumanji). Smplayer takes care of your media player needs.

The HDD installer (in Applications / System) is very similar to a standard (text- based) Arch install. Its killer feature is, that it can copy ALL the modifications you did in a live session (including all configuration changes and installs) into your new user profile.  Of course I added some of my personall favourites after installing (Firefox, terminator, conky …) and configured #! keyboard shortcuts, but the standard is really close to what I’d expect from a minimalistic Openbox environment. CTK also features an automatic xdg-menu section(so you don’t have to create your own menu entries), and a one click theme changer to switch between a darker and lighter theme (wicd, power manager and volume control tray icons can also be switched off and on from the menu). Yaourt is included as package manager, so you can easily install AUR packages, too.

If you MUST have the latest KDE4 or Gnome3 desktop with all the bling and eyecandy, CTK Arch is not for you. But if you like minimalistic distributions like #!, Archbang or Puppy, or if you are looking for a solid, WORKING Arch install to extend later, CTK Archdefinitely is the way to go.